Frank Buffum

Frank Buffum

Sr. Manager, Technical Communications, Dolby Laboratories

As the longtime leader of technical communication at Dolby, Frank Buffum has advocated an intelligent content revolution for more years than he can believe. The project to transform hyper-protected, download-only information silos with no customer feedback into a web-based interaction where all users can find what they need just when they need it (which went live this Fall), creates a completely new customer experience requiring renewed focus on the core mission of successful communication of any type — understand your user’s task!

Audience Profiling When You Don’t Have Access to Your Audience


At Dolby, our customers use our technology to make their products more successful, more valuable. Yet until very recently, the team writing instructions — how to design our technology into their product, how to test that design — had no direct contact with the customers of these instructions. In transforming our delivery model to an intelligent content model, we had to develop user profiles strong enough to support a unified site design for all our product types. How did we get there?

The key was the Support Team. Sure, a design team full-court press of interviews across the company also got enough momentum that people who had been resistant to letting tech writers talk to customers started saying “oh, you should talk to these customers for this…” But after all the profiling, Support was the rock. They know the customer, and through the duration of the design and execution, they always know if a design, or a mechanism, helps or hurts the user, because they live the use cases, day in and day out.

It’s a very simple principle, really — If you can’t talk to your users, talk to the people who always talk to your users.

Three Takeaways:

  • Customer self-help is everyone’s goal
  • Make Support your strongest stakeholder
  • No design choice that Support does not back